I was able to drive past Freedom Park in Cabanatuan City of our hometown, Nueva Ecija. This place that seemed to be just a memory of live band performances, Alay Lakad Assembly, Zumba and Aerobics venue, once gave me a night to reminisce.
I was third year college back then (if I remember it right, not sure though), my professor in BS Social Work told us to interview and make a Social Case Study Report. To be fair, we randomly chose which type of client we would be interviewing. I was assigned to make a SCSR of a prostitute.
A challenge, as I have thought. I want to make it a real experience and not to make up stories. I asked a friend’s friend to accompany me to a place where there are prostitutes I could interview.
First stop, my friend and I went inside a cabaret (In the Philippines, cabaret is the same to the English meaning but it is oftenly associated with girls entertaining men and vice versa, with sex while drinking) to ask the women who were entertaining drunk men if they could be my subject for my assignment.
There was one who agreed for an interview but after asking some questions, I realized that she was not really a prostitute. She was a GRO (guest relation officer, receptionist or waitress). So I decided to go to the second place, which my friend’s friend told me, was a place infested with you-know-what.
Freedom Park. I haven’t believed it at first but when we got there, numerous women were waiting for customers. You would not notice it at first because the place is a park where people are supposed to go whenever they want. But after observing the unnoticable transactions going around the dark corners (I still have 20/20 vision back then), I told myself that I was in the perfect place.
Being a student at that time, even if I knew the risks of plunging myself in there, I felt excited of interviewing a real life prostitute because that was a thing that I have never done before. I know there are prostitutes out there… but actually interviewing one? And asking her about her life? It was a combination of ‘Uh-oh’ feeling and excitement.
I have spotted a woman and told her my mission. I knew she was the ‘manager’ and asked her if we could do an interview to one of the girls. She then said that I have to pay for the time that would be spent interviewing her girl. When I agreed, she directed me to one of the girls there, “Jenny”.
Jenny was just 23-24 years old during the time of my interview. I was shocked when I learned how it all started. I asked her the most awkward question I have ever asked someone in my life: “What circumstances led you to become a prostitute?”
I know it was a question quite degrading. But I was just a student and I don’t really know how to ask her that without really pinpointing what she does for a living.
She said there was one night and she and her friends started drinking at a male friend’s apartment. When they were all drunk, something happened between her and a male friend. She said it just happened and it continued to occur several times with her consent, whenever she wanted and whenever he wanted.
Then hard times came. She decided to join friends who also sell bodies for sex. She said that sometimes when she just felt like having sex or when she really needed money, even for Php 200.00, she would agree to a customer. Some nights, there were generous customers that would give her Php 1,500.00 and up. Most nights she could accommodate two to three customers until morning. She was just 23 or 24. And again, she was just soo… young.
I was saddened by the fact that there are prostitutes: one who was forced by difficult life circumstances to sell her body to earn money; one who enjoyed sex so she decided to sell herself to get sex and earn money; one who psychologically turned out to be a prostitute because of life experiences by either sexual activities that was committed against her will before or by her love of pornography or other things that we could not decipher and comprehend.
I was saddened by the fact that no matter how people try to help others, if the person does not want to accept help and if the person voluntarily chooses her life to be like that, all our dreams to make life better will not come true. Help is help only when accepted and when the person being helped is wanting change, too.
In the end, I got what I wanted — a firsthand interview with a real life subject and lots of realizations.
I think that was the first time I could say that I really fell in love with Social Work. And I haven’t felt that I chose the wrong profession since I graduated.
Memories, oh, mem’ries!
I just had the biggest smile while looking at that park. Because once in my life, a turning point, a crossroad, happened at that park.
I fell inlove with what I am now.